Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Ed Danko in District 1 had $4,410 in cash contributions, none of it self-funded. In fact, he loaned his campaign $25,000 in August 2018, bringing the total in his campaign fund to $29,410 by July 31, 2020. Danko’s first campaign finance reports last year had originally been filed in paper form directly with the Palm Coast City Clerk, before the switch was made to the supervisor of election’s electronic database.
The races for the three seats on the Palm Coast City Council are drawing neither many contributors nor many contributions despite the high-profile mayoral race and a combined 11 candidates running for the three seats, based on cumulative campaign finance reports filed as of July 31.
The 11 candidates have raised a combined $110,000 in cash so far, but 71 percent of that ($77,800) is from the candidates’ own pockets. (For comparison’s sake, Rick Staly, the incumbent sheriff, has raised $102,000 so far, and four constitutional officers who ran unopposed raised $45,000 between them.)
In a city of over 70,000 registered voters, all of whom are eligible to vote in each of the three races, the 11 candidates for council–including two incumbents–have drawn just over 150 individual contributors between them, and other than themselves. Just two of the candidates account for more than half that total: Michael Schottey, a candidate for mayor, drew the largest number of contributors at 56 (many of his contributors have contributed more than once but are only counted once as contributors). John Brady, another candidate for mayor, drew 30 contributors.
Surprisingly, incumbent Mayor Milissa Holland has drawn just two contributors and incumbent City Council member Nick Klufas just one–not a good sign for either campaign. Holland said in a statement that she’d made the decision not to campaign. (“I have chosen to do my job as Mayor rather than participate in political events and activities that, in light of what we are going through, do not supplant what this community needs and deserves,” she said.) She has raised just under $12,000, with $1,400 of that from her own pocket.
Klufas is funding all but $100 of his $12,700 campaign chest, as is Alan Greene, the candidate for mayor, who put in $10,000, and Alan Lowe, who’s self-funding nearly 90 percent of his campaign so far (with total cash raised at $12,440, $10,950 his own).
Holland’s list of contributors looks long, at 12. In fact, when her own contribution and one other business owner’s are removed, all 10 remaining contributions–each of them for $1,000–one way or another go back to businesses variously named but owned by a single man: Mori Hosseini, the powerful developer and owner of ICI Homes (and a resident of Plantation Bay at the south end of the county), who’s been funding campaigns in Flagler County, in Volusia, in the state and across the country for decades, and overwhelmingly to Republicans. (In February he donated $25,000 to the WinRed political action committee, though in the past he donated generously to Democratic county commissioners such as George Hanns.)
Holland’s two contributors and Klufas’s one are still more than Lou Salvagio, one of three candidates for the District 1 council seat incumbent Bob Cuff chose not to run for again. Salvagio has no contributors and is funding the entirety of his $5,000 campaign chest himself.
The other candidates in that district are Ed Danko, who got $4,410 in contributions from 26 contributors, and Sims Jones, whose 10 contributors and $1,000 from his own pocket totaled $2,115 in contributions. Danko opened his campaign a year ago with a $25,000 loan to himself, which by itself vaulted him to the top of the heap in cash, with another $4,410 in cash contributions from others. He clarified today that he expects to pay himself back around
$19,000. His more than $5,000 in in-kind contributions include nearly $4,000 in such things as his own work on his campaign ads. Danko counts just two large contributors, including $1,000 from the Realtors Political Committee. David Valinski, who’s described as an assistant to Lt. Col. Oliver North, is listed as having contributed $100.
Cornelia Manfre, a candidate challenging Klufas, is at the higher end of contributors, with 20. She is contributing $3,000 of her $7,621 campaign fund, with Intracoastal Construction ($500), a Realtors political action committee ($1,000) and David Taylor’s Prism Real Estate Services ($500) among her larger contributors.
Brady, who’s running for mayor for the second time–he got 15 percent of the vote in the four-way race Holland won four years ago–got three $500 contributions, including from Louis Vitale, who has been a vocal opponent of the city’s development plans. He also got a $200 contribution from Jack Howell, the former council member (who’s also, oddly, contributing $100 to Michael Schottey, one of Brady’s competitors, and who contributed $100 to Manfre). Brady, a Democrat, also got a $100 contribution from Dennis McDonald, the arch-conservative who’s behind several local Republican races and who ran his own several times, including for mayor four years ago, unsuccessfully.
Schottey, a candidate for mayor, is contributing nearly half his $11,870 campaign chest with his own funds, but has drawn some 56 contributors (55 when an interest amount from his campaign bank account is excluded), by far the largest number, most of them for modest amounts. The largest contribution ($1,000) is from the Florida Realtors Pac, with a Palm Coast accountant contributing another $900 and a property management company contributing just over $500 through two donors. Mayoral candidate Alan Lowe’s 14 contributors mirror those of Schottey for their modest contributions but for a $500 check from Agua Construction, the company owned by Dan Priotti, who’s had a mercurial history with the city and others.